A few years back I had the privilege of leading a week-long class on Family Ministry at the Mountain Retreat and Learning Center in North Carolina. The class was part of the Religious Education week sponsored by the Southeast Chapter of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA). One of the highlights of the week (at least for me) was the morning ritual. Since I knew there were going to be only six or seven of us in the Family Ministry class, that we would literally be a small group, I thought that this would be an excellent opportunity for us to experience the small group process as a spiritual practice. So I took the Rev. Bob Hill’s “One Page Covenant Group Manual” and filled in the session template with resources from Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat’s excellent website spiritualityandpractice.com. I focused on the five values-based spiritual practices that I believe are necessary for countering the “five great motivators” that underpin our consumerist culture (a culture that is detrimental to maintaining healthy families). The end result was a set of five small group ministry sessions that I’d like to share with you. I’ll start with Hope, the spiritual response to Fear. Future posts will feature the other four values: Hospitality, Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Compassion.
Becoming a Beacon of Hope
A part of our obligation to our own being and to our descendants is to study life and our conditions, searching always for the authentic underpinnings of hope.
— Wendell Berry quoted in Hope, Human and Wild by Bill McKibbon
A Teaching Story from Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace: Living in the Spirit of the Prayer of Saint Francis by Kent Nerburn
This little book is an absolutely marvelous collection of essays organized around 14 lines of the famous prayer attrributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. Here is a passage about being a beacon of hope.
We are not saints, we are not heroes. Our lives are lived in the quiet corners of the ordinary. We build tiny hearth fires, sometimes barely strong enough to give off warmth. But to the person lost in the darkness, our tiny flame may be the road to safety, the path to salvation.
It is not given us to know who is lost in the darkness that surrounds us or even if our light is seen. We can only know that against even the smallest of lights, darkness cannot stand.
A sailor lost at sea can be guided home by a single candle. A person lost in a wood can be led to safety by a flickering flame. It is not an issue of quality or intensity or purity. It is simply an issue of the presence of light.
Questions: Share the story of a time when the strength of hope was a spiritual resource that helped pull you through a difficult period.
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No true effort is in vain. Look at the fields over there. The grain sown therein has to remain in the earth for a certain time, then it sprouts, and in due time yields hundreds of its kind. The same is the case with every effort in a good cause.
— Badshah Khan quoted in Nonviolent Soldier of Islam by Eknath Easwaran
To Practice This Thought: Sow some grain for a good cause, and don’t concern yourself with results.
For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Hope.
For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.